Gone are the days when having braces resulted in the nickname “metal mouth.” Today’s braces are less noticeable than their predecessors and have even been worn by such celebrities as Tom Cruise, Gwen Stefani, and Emma Watson. As recently as 2013, teens in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia were wearing fake braces as a fashion statement or possibly to fool observers into thinking they could afford the real—and expensive—orthodontic devices. How do braces work? Though there are many different types of teeth-straightening devices, they all generally work the same way: by delivering constant, gentle pressure to slowly straighten and correctly align crooked teeth. As the teeth move, the bone changes shape. How much do braces cost? According to Braces Info, the cost of braces for adults in 2012 ranged from $2,500 to more than $9,000, depending on the case. Braces for children generally cost less than braces for adults. How long will I have to wear braces? On average, people wear braces for 1–3 years. Most patients then need to wear a retainer all the time for the first six months, but they eventually graduate to just wearing one while they sleep. What types of braces exist today? Traditional braces: The orthodontist affixes brackets to teeth and threads arch wires through the slots in the brackets. The wires are held in place by tiny rubber bands called ligatures. Brackets can be stainless steel or, so they’re less obvious, tooth-colored. With lingual braces, the brackets are placed on the back of the teeth to hide them. The wires can also be metal, clear, or tooth-colored. Clear aligners (such as Invisalign or ClearCorrect): Aligners are clear, thin, plastic-like trays custom-fit to the patient’s teeth. Unlike traditional braces, they are removed for eating, brushing, and flossing. Each aligner is worn for 2–3 weeks and gradually moves the teeth. Invisalign and ClearCorrect both recommend wearing the aligners for about 22 hours per day. Will metal braces set off a metal detector? Nope. The metal used is extremely lightweight.
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